Saturday, April 30, 2011

Hoplia Beetles

I got to thinking about the post I had on the hoplia beetles a few days ago--I forgot to show what they looked like, not just the damage they did. So, here is a picture of one. They are kind of funny when you knock them out of the flowers--they just lay where they fall and play dead! They give me plenty of time to step on them. The less of them means less eggs laid, which means less beetles next year. Or, at least, that's what I think! They are here just a few weeks, and damage the first flush of light-colored roses, iris', and a few other flowers. Then, they lay their eggs in the ground around the plants, so their offspring will have something to eat when they hatch next year.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cucumbers and Dill

I finally got a start to planting my summer seeds. I put in three 2 x 2 posts that will hold up some netting for my cucumbers to climb on. I planted half of a row in regular eating cucumbers, and will plant the other half in pickling cucumbers (I just bought the seeds). I will also plant some dill; and I look forward to making my own dill pickles, again. They were the first thing I learned to can after I made jams. Dill pickles are so easy, no cooking and no water bath! There's not much canning that's easier than that! I will plant the rest of the bed in green beans, again for canning.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Grow It, Cook It

Here's a terrific new magazine from Birds and Blooms (part of the Taste of Home family of magazines), that I found at the market. It tells how to grow several different vegetables, and then there are a variety of recipes for cooking these vegetables. I am anxious to try the recipes as several of them sound really good. I hope you can find a copy!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dog/Cat-Proof Your Garden

Here's a neat trick to keep pets from digging in our gardens! [I had a link here, but it seems that Yahoo was messing with the address, so I will just tell you what it said (I can no longer find the source, either)]. You just lay hog wire across your garden soil. You can use U-shaped wire as pegs to hold the wire down. Some dogs are determined to dig, but if the hog wire is pegged, then it will really slow the dogs down! Cats, on the other hand, would just go somewhere else to do their business if they found the hog wire covering the the soil. (This was from a P. Allen Smith newsletter).

Monday, April 25, 2011

My Pond

Last month my husband and I bought a small pond, and he installed it. I have a miniature cattail (in the upper part of the pond) and a pink lily (there are two small leaves that are floating on the surface). It has a bubbler that that keeps the water moving, and filters it, too. You can see that there are some large rocks in the pond, and a few outside the pond--this is an ongoing project and I will likely move everything around (except the pond). This area is at the entry of my house and I want to create a cool, welcoming garden. Soon, I hope it will be more shaded, and then it will create a nice place for frogs and toads (and people, too!). We used to have hundreds of toads in the summer, but they died out several years ago (the neighbors all around us started using companies that sprayed their yards for bugs every month). We still have one or two toads, and needed a pond for them to reproduce (that's the reason I got this pond!). Toads are great bug-eaters!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

My Peach Tree

I went to thin the peaches off of this tree (a genetically miniaturized peach tree) and realized that it has grown too tall and wide. Last winter I cut off about 1/3 of the larger branches, but it is still too big. I did cut off one more large branch (it would have snapped under the weight of the peaches) and a few small ones. As I was pruning, I wanted to cut off more, but if I cut off to much, then the tree would go into shock--it would focus on making leaves instead of producing fruit. This is what happens to landscape trees you see all over town that have been butchered--the tree starts sending out shoots all along the trunk, to make leaves for food. These shoots would make branches, but they are superficial and not really anchored to the trunk, making them more likely to snap off later. Anyway, looking closer, the peach tree has a lot of die-back, where many of the smaller branch-tips have died. This indicates to me that the tree is not happy (healthy). It is about 20 years old, so it's lifespan has been reached. I did thin the peaches, I will harvest the peaches when they are ripe, and then prune the tree to a nicer-looking shape. Next winter I will take the tree out; and then replant the space with a new peach next spring.

One year, when we moved to a house on two acres, there was an orchard of mature mixed fruit trees. We were told that the previous few years the trees had been neglected (=not watered or pruned), so I set about watering, pruning and fertilizing. There were two sour cherry trees that produced wonderful jam- and pie-cherries. The second year one of the cherry trees produced 72 pounds of fruit, a huge amount for one tree, and then the tree died (it had been neglected too long and couldn't recover). It had put forth it's last effort. I think this is what my little peach tree is doing, as the number of peaches I had to thin was incredible. The almond-sized peaches were clustered like grapes, something I had not seen before. So, all indications are that the tree has nearly finished what it was put there to do. Life goes on.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Hoplia Beetles Have Arrived

This is how my roses are starting to look. The hoplia beetles are busy chewing holes in my flowers. The beetles aren't here long, but they ruin my first flush of roses, and some of my iris flowers.
This is a closer look at the same flower--you might need to click on the picture to make it bigger, so you can see the beetles better. These beetles are easy to knock off into some soapy water, just be careful as they just as easily fall to the ground!

Flowers of Spring---Part 3

My blue iris' are in full bloom. There are so many flowers blooming now that have terrific scents (including my iris')--I really don't know which is my favorite!

I do have one fruit tree that has skipped blooming this year--my Valencia orange tree. I thinned this year's heavy crop, but obviously not nearly enough. No flowers this spring means no oranges next spring. I will have to be more vigilant next year!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Flowers of Spring---Part 2

The pink bud that I posted a couple of days ago turned into this group of lilies. The scent just floats on the air!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Flowers of Spring---Part 1

My Peony is blooming! The flowers are large, white, and have a little red candy-striping (it's hard to tell with this flower). It always amazes me that ants help the buds to open! The scent is amazing, too!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Flower Bud

Can you guess what this flower will look like once it opens? Or, what color it will be? It is a real beauty, and it's scent is amazing! I will post a picture when it opens fully.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Hoplia Beetles

A couple of days ago I found a hoplia beetle in my garage. Usually, they go after are the rose and iris blooms. My roses are just small buds, but my yellow and white iris are opening up. My blue iris blossoms are about to open. I haven't seen any beetles on the iris flowers---maybe they are waiting for the roses! When the hoplia beetles arrive, I will post some pictures.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Flower Bouquet

I thought this was pretty---it's a volunteer, and I love it!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Orange Blossoms

They may be a little later than usual, but that's OK---my navel orange tree is starting to bloom! My tangerine and Valencia orange trees are still holding back. Normally, all of my citrus is blooming by April 1st. As long as they are healthy and producing, I guess I can wait a couple of extra weeks to pick fruit!

Last week I went on a 6-hour clean-up spree in my back yard. I ended up under my navel orange tree and saw that there was a great need to remove several large branches, which I did. I didn't know if it would set the tree back or not, I guess time will tell. There were a couple of water sprouts, branches that shoot straight up and don't produce fruit, that were about 2 1/2-3 inches thick, that I removed; plus, another two branches that were too low or pushing against our fence. I needed to do this before the sun gets too hot this summer, so the tree can produce enough leaves to cover the more exposed parts of the tree. Citrus trunks and interior areas can get sun-scald, like a bad sun-burn, which can kill the tree.

Monday, April 11, 2011


My Valencia Orange tree is really loaded with fruit this year, and ripens in May. I have thinned them somewhat, but not nearly enough, and now it is too late. Citrus tend to produce a large crop one year and then nothing the next. If I can thin the oranges early enough, then I can have a decent crop each year. Usually, my citrus is blooming around the first of April, but this year they still aren't blooming; although, they are getting ready to!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Snow in Clovis?

No, spring is here! I just emptied our paper shredder in my garden box, and it looked a little bit like snow! Paper, shredded or otherwise, is considered brown matter, and is better if layered with green matter (such as freshly cut grass). When you start with bare ground, layer brown matter first. Green matter will take up nitrogen (to help break down the green matter) from the soil and deprive the plants of this much needed nutrient.

I still haven't gotten the coffee grounds, but I will soon. The coffee grounds are considered brown matter, too. It's all good, and the plants love it! The layers break down slowly and the plants are able to use the nutrients naturally. The thick mulch keeps the weeds from sprouting, so that means less work for me!

Friday, April 8, 2011


My little Granny Smith apple tree has two clusters of blooms right now. This is the second season for this tree, and I will leave one or two apples to ripen. My two Gala apple trees won't have fruit this year as one is a new tree, and the other was just moved to a better growing location. Gala's are my favorite apple (Granny Smith is great for baking!) and I can't wait for them to fruit next year!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

An Invasive Weed

This weed showed up about five years ago--likely a bird dropped the seed. It is relentless and vigorous! I haven't identified it yet--it is a vining plant and has strong roots. I find that digging it out by hand helps to slow it down. If you recognize it, please let me know what it is!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Time To Thin Apricots

It's time to thin my apricots. You can see the size of the apricots compared to the cloths-pin. Dave Wilson Nursery has a great video that shows how to thin plums and apricots. The Dave Wilson Nursery is widely known for healthy, vigorous fruit trees, and are sold in many nursery centers in our area (not so much at the big box stores). Fruit trees are bought and planted in January and February (and sometimes March) here in the valley. Nearly all of my fruit trees are Dave Wilson trees.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tomato Flowers

If you look closely you can see some tomato flowers! They set fruit when the nighttime temperatures reach 50. This is my Sweet 100 cherry tomato, and is an indeterminate tomato, meaning that it will continue to grow all season, until a frost kills it or I pull it out. Determinate tomatoes, like my Romas, will only grow to about 3-4' high, so I have a stake that I will tie them to (when they get big enough), so they won't lay on the ground. I don't remove suckers or leaves, only tomato worms! Leaves are needed to feed the plant so that it can produce a nice, big crop. I fertilized my tomatoes about 3 weeks after I planted them, which happened to be just before our last big rain. I can't wait for the tomatoes to get ripe--I can eat a couple of pounds, or more, a day!

Monday, April 4, 2011


When I was a little girl, I used to make up games to help me clean my messy room. When I had children of my own, I taught my kids the same games and hoped that it would help them to have a clean room. Now my kids have kids, and I have a messy yard! One "game" I use to clean up the weeds is to concentrate on one type of weed and eradicate it, while ignoring the rest of the weeds, knowing that their turn will arrive soon. Which weed do I target? The one that is going to seed! I don't need to have them self-sow their seeds and make more work for me! Here you see the common dandelion in all of its glory--it's out of here today!!

This is a grass that has green seed-heads, so it will be next on my weed eradication list. This grass has seeded itself in several spots around my back yard. It is a tough grass to pull as the roots really hang on, but I'll get it out!
I took care of these weeds! The grass above is actually hay. I use baled straw in my garden and it has some seeds, which have spouted in my yard. I ignored my yard for the last year and the hay has matured. I got to thinking about mulching, so I took scissors and cut the hay off, and laid it in my veggie boxes. Next, I hope to pick up some coffee grounds at Star Bucks, where I understand they bag up their grounds and give the stuff away for free.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Water Meter

I like to use this water meter to find out if my plants are in need of water. Sometimes the soil surface seems to be dry, but just underneath the soil is pretty wet. I got my water meter for Christmas one year and have used it countless times since. They are very reasonably priced, and can be found at hardware stores that have a gardening section.